Yoga for kids is popping up everywhere — and a good thing it is! With their busy schedules, hectic home lives, and increased social demands, kids these days are under more pressure than ever before. No wonder they’re often cranky, clumsy, over-stimulated, distracted, unfocused, lacking energy, or hyperactive.
But yoga can make a difference.
—Yoga helps cultivate a relaxed state of body and mind.
—It increases concentration and focus.
—It builds self-esteem and confidence, and instills a sense of calm.
—It is non-competitive.
—It develops strong, flexible, and healthy bodies.
—It provides tools for stress management.
–It stimulates the imagination.
—It increases self-awareness.
When most of us think of yoga, we conjure up images of people twisting themselves like pretzels, standing on their heads, or chanting funny sounding words. But yoga is so much more, and kids’ yoga is different from the yoga that mom does.
Unlike adults, kids are natural born yogis. At any given moment, a child might crawl around like a snake, roar like a lion, stand tall like a tree, or walk on all fours like a dog. And this is a good thing, since most yoga poses come from ancient yogis’ observations of animals and nature. In kids’ yoga, the focus is less on the particulars of alignment and more on the experience of trying something different, stretching to new limits, and having fun in the process.
In a kids’ yoga class, children are invited into a world where breath work is taught using bubbles and pinwheels, and traveling into the jungle, surfing the waves, or flying through the sky like a superhero is as common as bending over and touching their toes. Despite all the ways it is benefiting them, if you ask them why they like yoga, more often than not, they will answer: “Because it makes me feel good.”
Yoga means union. It’s the connection between the body and the mind. Combining breathing exercises with yoga poses and relaxation techniques helps create this balance between body and mind, and produces an overall sense of wellbeing. Yoga for kids helps them develop this connection and discover the power behind their breath.
As the popularity of yoga for kids increases, so does the availability and variety of programs. There are classes in pre-natal yoga; mommy and me yoga; toddler yoga; kids’ yoga; family yoga; teen yoga; yoga for the special child; yoga for children with sensory integration issues, ADHD, poor social skills, obesity, sleep problems… and the list goes on. But regardless of what brings a child to explore the world of yoga, she is sure to enjoy the benefits of the class.
Try Yoga at Home
—Find a quiet, roomy space for you and your child.
—Do some simple breathing exercises together. Lie on your back and breathe. Notice how your belly fills up like a balloon each time you breathe in. Try putting a small stuffed animal on your belly and watch it rise and fall with your breath. Or blow bubbles and use your breath to keep the bubbles in the air.
—Have your child become her own superhero! Have her lie on her belly, and then lift her head, chest, arms and legs into the air. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s super-yogi! Ask your child what her special superpower is.
—Have your child make up yoga poses and name them. What would an ice cream cone look like? A hot air balloon?
—Do a partner yoga pose. Sit face-to-face with your child. Bring the soles of your feet to touch, while holding each other’s forearms. Try lifting your legs. Or with the whole family, have everyone stand in a circle, holding hands. See if you can balance on one foot while holding onto one another. Can you do that with your eyes closed?
—Final relaxation: Have your child lie down on his back. Have him tense up every muscle, as if he were squeezing out a sponge, and then release and relax. Massage his head and neck and ask him to visualize floating on a cloud, or lying on a beach.
LAURIE JORDAN has a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University and is a certified yoga instructor through BE YOGA, Karma Kids Yoga, and the Yoga Learning Connection (for children with special needs). She teaches classes in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. She has developed Yawning Yoga, a bedtime yoga series, as well as Storybook Yoga, based on the idea that life’s best lessons are learned from the stories we hear as children. The combination of yoga and social work gives her a unique expertise for children and teens experiencing stress. For more information:
firstname.lastname@example.org; (914) 450-5077; www.jordanyoga.com.